Suitland

Diego Aleman, Rebecca Jacobs, and Sara Phillips



Like was said before (Community Analysis link), Silver Hill Road is one of the main roads of Suitland, populated by liquor stores, hair salons, neglected restaurants and storefronts, and pawnshops. However, Silver Hill Road was once a hub for businesses and restaurants that relied on business from government workers at the Federal Center. However, The Federal Center was cut off from the rest of the community in 1983 after a chain link fence topped with barbed wire was built around the massive property to protect employees from the rampant crime of the area. Before 1983, the federal center grounds were open to the public, completely unguarded. The fence was erected after popular demand from the federal center workers after an increase in car theft and office robberies. This created a demand for increased protection. Over time, workers ceased leaving the complex during the day. Community members and federal center workers alike have compared this fence to a prison (Schwartzman).

On a more positive note, two new magnet programs were introduced to Suitland High School at the beginning of the 1987-‘88 school year, drawing in new students from all over Prince George's County. In 1983, the federal district court issued a new desegregation order that would have forbade schools from having a student body that was less than 10 percent or more than 80 percent black. This plan was extremely unpopular among Prince George’s County legislators. In another effort to desegregate the schools, Consultant Robert Green created the “Green Report” in 1983, which recommended a reassignment of 30,000 students and a reorganization of bus rides up to 85 minutes. This was to ensure that students from demographic groups all over the county had the same opportunities. This was also incredibly controversial, so leaders thought that implementing a magnet program would be healthy alternative. The unique programs would attract a more diverse student body, therefore creating racial balance (Eaton). Suitland High School was chosen as the location because of the school’s large campus and centralized location (Hall).

The new programs were the “School of Visual and Performing Arts” and the “University High School Center” (Hall). Suitland was seen as the perfect location for these magnet programs because of its resources, large campus, centralized location, and diverse racial and ethnic makeup among the student body. The art program offered training in singing, musical instruments, dance, theater, and visual arts, while the University High School Center was an academically rigorous program that prepared students for college, providing SAT prep, computer courses, and advanced placement courses. Both programs were open to students all over the country, so Suitland High School experienced a sharp influx in new students at the beginning of this school year (Hall).

In January of 1988, President Ronald Reagan spoke at Suitland High School, calling magnet programs like the one at Suitland High School “one of the greatest successes of the educational reform movement” (Latimer). Some school administrators expressed worry that magnet programs like these would overshadow the importance of regular public schools that educate the majority of students. In his speech to the students, the president said that Suitland before had “bad problems”, including “low academic performance, vandalism, poor attendance” (Latimer). According to Reagan, the magnet program would completely turn that around.

In 1998 Senator Barbara A Mikulski decided that the barbed wire fence around the federal center must come down, comparing it to the Berlin Wall (Spinner). The Federal Center employees firmly disagreed, afraid of the crime of the surrounding neighborhood. One employee even described the fence as a “security blanket” (Spinner). The chain link fence was taken down in the summer of 1999 and replaced with a more attractive wrought iron fence. Businesses and individual members of the community alike were held responsible for thinking of plans for the sign. This was part of a program to create things of “local significance and beauty” inside the capital beltway (Prince).